Nelly: Hi Jasmin, my dolls are unwanted dolls that I recycle. I find these dolls in thrift shops, second hand on the Internet's adds or auction, friends who give me… I'm using Bratz and Moxie dolls because they have a big nice face when erased and the shape and length of the body is not too adult (contrasting with the make up of their face actually!). I'm using Monster High dolls also because of their articulated elbows and removable hands I can replace by my articulated hands for my sign language dolls. I like Monster High doll, I find some of them cute, and some are a fabulous base for repainting : each of them are different ever in their plastic shape (face and body!!)
Then I remove their initial very make up face, to repaint a new one more natural. I make clothes as well. The purpose is to have these dolls fitting for children, as they can see themselves in their dolls.
The originality of my dolls is that I make look-a-like dolls also for children with disability, especially for deaf children : whatever they sign with sign language to communicate (I've created hands with articulated fingers), are hearing impaired or have a cochlear implant (I've created those for dolls)!
FeministBookshelf: How did you come to the idea of creating those dolls?
Nelly: I'm a sign language interpreter, it's my daily work so I'm really immerse in the deaf community. During spring I've heard about the "Toylikeme" lobbying encouraging big compagnies, like Playmobil or so, to create toys that reflect the diversity of children with disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities and relatives started to make their own toy to show them it's possible. They also underline the fact that their kids are so happy to find toys and dolls looking like them. They feel more self confident...
I involved myself in this community project by making my first deaf doll Lilo, with prototype hands with articulated fingers (iron wire, polymer clay and coloured latex). I've also made a video in stop motion were we can see my doll promoting "Toylikeme" and using sign language in movement!
FeministBookshelf: That's so cool! When did you start the shop? Why?
Nelly: : I’m French, from France and we moved to Montréal, Canada in 2014. I was working part time (Sign language interpreter) and had free time. I've started my shop in 2014 with Sign language key chains because I was looking for some sign language object on etsy and didn't find them. I've started the dolls in February 2015 when I saw a video on the internet showing how to remove original face from plastic dolls.
I've always been a "crafty" girl since I was a kid, making dresses for dolls, furnitures, and creative objets, pictures....When I found out it was so easy to remove the face with this method I started to make one doll, and wanted to get more creative, to try other outfits, other faces...actually I like diversity.
So I started to have 5 dolls at home and more in preparation... So I made my shop, to sell the dolls, to have money to buy more dolls and supplies and to get ride of the others by making little girls happy ! That's why also I don't sell my doll for a very high price. Actually it doesn't cover the time I spend on it (at least four hours). But I wanted that people cab afford them. Some recycled dolls are so expensive that not everybody can afford to buy one.
I want to mention that I have two daughters (4 and 9) and that I really care about the image the dolls show them. I'm very happy they both love my dolls and propose ideas. I'm made some for them and for friends. I gave around 15 look-a-like dolls for my friends, my daughters' friends and family :)
Nelly: Yes i'm making look-a like dolls as well. People only give me pictures of them or of the child and pictures of the clothes they want and I make it. Yes I can make a doll that look a like you!
Of course i have plenty of dolls at home and I take the doll that fit he hair and skin color of the client, and then start to work on it. The look a like is mostly about the color and shape of the eyes, hairbrows and lips, as I can't modify the shape of the plastic face or nose and body of course!
FeministBookshelf: But why do you paint them "more natural” looking faces? What disturbs you with the original dolls? And what does "more natural" mean to you? A few weeks ago feministing.com published an article titled "Why doll make-unders make me uncomfortable", critiquing the remake of dolls as a removal of “ethnic style markers”. Do you think that applies? Of course there was one comment saying we had to reflect on if and why there are things considered "ethnic style markers”.
Nelly: When I write "more natural" it's the result of it. I'm not keen on some too much adult make up and outfit of some dolls (not all of them!! Don't want to generalize). I'm not a tyrannical mum and my daughters are allowed to play with the Bratz dolls, outfits, shoes I found while I'm working on others. They have Barbies, Disney princesses dolls... They only prefer my dolls because they can choose what they want and don't have a bad look.
I understand that they like to have glittery dresses, High heels, or other things to play. Because it's important to have diversity and use imagination as well. And it’s important they can exercise their critical sense.
I'm part of a doll group (around 2000 persons) making mostly Bratz dolls, and most of the person come from US. A lot of them are willing to erase the super sexualized part of these dolls, and love to make them as little girls, sometimes sage little girls, according to the Tree Change doll's Sonia Singh dolls which inspired us at he beginning. What is really good is that each of us managed to create our own style from painting more teenagers faces, to enhancing ethnic faces and outifts markers. And I don't really see the ethnic markers in the initial Bratz dolls. If they have a lot of complexion and hair colours they are definitely from the same mold with exactly the same faces and noses, , and same outfit style, just like if all the people with different ethnical backgrounds were meant to be faced and dressed all the same way in a consumable society.
For me it's good that people can choose between big firm toys and original toys from crafters. That's good to have the opportunity of this choice. I mean, I didn't see dolls that attracted me before I've seen this movement and done mine!
And it's not my aim to banish all the other dolls like Barbies and Bratz!
Nelly: Honestly, I had only one bad feedback from a fan of Bratz doll. All the other persons, family, friends, my colleagues, Facebook doll group are very enthusiastic with my dolls and especially my "deaf" dolls. I have parents who asked me to make a deaf dolls...or people encouraging me to continue promoting this disability.
FeministBookshelf: What was that negative feedback about?
Nelly: The Bratz fan said me she was buying all the Bratz she can so we can't defigurate them. It was a message for all the people recycling Bratz dolls.
I didn't answer as I'm making other dolls, and i'm happy that some girls and boys can have Bratz if they and their parents like the style.
FeministBookshelf: Did you so far get orders from outside Canada, maybe from Europe? Also, for some of my readers it might be interesting, if you sell dolls to to Europe, especially to Germany?
Nelly: Most of my dolls have been sold for Australia, US, France and Canada. I sold some for Israel, Mexico... :) Yes I'm well prepared to sale for Germany and Europe!
FeministBookshelf: That is very good because I think some of my readers are planning to be your next customers.
Nelly: Thank you very much for taking time for this.